Once upon a time, the Frontside field was populated by two archetypes: supercharged trench-diggers for the dual-track carving set, and the very large family of mostly system skis (including a binding) that comprise the first three price points in the U.S. market. As the popularity of off-piste skiing grew, brands started to extend their off-trail and all-mountain families into the Frontside fold.
What began as a sneaky infiltration is now a full-on invasion of off-trail baselines. Rossi has even created a sub-genre to embrace the concept, the “all-resort” ski, embodied in the new Experience 82 Ti and 82 Basalt. Rossi envisions their target skiers as vacationers who want the total resort experience, of which skiing is just a part. The design accent falls on forgiveness and ease of use for this occasional skier, rather than high-octane carving.
When Blizzard extended its Flipcore franchise down to the Brahma 82 a couple of years ago, I imagine its product developers were concerned about over-reaching the design’s proper application. (An earlier such attempt, the Latigo, is no longer with us.) Any such concerns must have evaporated, for the 21/22 Brahma 82 now sports the even-flexing TrueBlend core, an upgrade that expands its already considerable performance range. Built exactly like its namesake, the Brahma 88, the Brahma 82 may be less ski, but it’s definitely not less of a ski than its laureled sibling.
Salomon’s new Stance 84 is the latest member of its off-trail Stance clan. Built with a bit less Titanal than its wider kin, the Stance 84 is a competent carver with a remarkably high ceiling for a ski that with a street price of $499. There are many models in the Frontside genre with the same price tag, none of which can hold a candle to the Stance 84.
While we’re on the subject of value propositions, Kästle’s PX81 is a system ski intended to retail at $750, well below Kästle’s usual price stratum. We didn’t get enough scores to rate it, but we got enough feedback to know it’s a strong Frontside ski and a great value for the less aggressive, albeit skilled, on-piste skier.
Little Liberty introduced the evolv 84 last season, extending its original all-mountain family. This season, Liberty added another strut to its Vertical Metal Technology, giving it a 3-rib construction that feels welded to the snow. While the evolv 84’s sidecut and baseline suggest an all-terrain temperament, its innards crave to carve. On groomers in particular, it’s inclination to stay wedded to the snow surface exceeds its interest in slarving around off-trail, a classic characteristic of a carver enveloped in an all-mountain package.
The newest arrival among traditional, on-piste carvers is Blizzard’s Thunderbird R15 WB, with the “R” indicating the sidecut radius and “WB” signifying that it’s the wider version of the R15 tandem. If you’re wondering how carving can be addicting, one spin on the T-Bird R15 WB will make you want another and another. It loads up evenly and blasts off the edge with the energy so many modern skis lack. It’s a welcome addition to the elite club of unadulterated carving tools.
Life is full of regrets, and one of ours is that we weren’t able to catch a ride on Völkl’s new Deacon 76 Master. We were, however, able to rock its thinner twin, the Deacon 72 Master. Both supposedly have tip and tail rocker, but that’s not what the pilot feels. The Deacon 72 Master behaves like a race ski with good manners, always there with just the right response. We strongly suspect the Deacon 76 Master to be its performance peer.
Too many Americans look past the rich Frontside category in search of the all-terrain capabilities of an All-Mountain East or West model. There are always going to be groomer days (sometimes, groomer weeks), when parts of your favorite playground will be not just off-trail but off-limits. If you want to make the most of this massive chunk of your skiing life, you should have a Frontside option in your locker.